January 21, 2013

On Grand Strand Golf: Myrtle Beach relationship with China expanding in 2013

The China-to-Myrtle Beach golf pipeline figures to ramp up in 2013.

The China-to-Myrtle Beach golf pipeline figures to ramp up in 2013.

A much larger group of Chinese players is expected to participate in the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship, additional groups might be making the overseas trip for golf vacations and instruction, and Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher Brad Redding will be conducting golf schools in both areas.

“It’s definitely moving forward,” said Bill Golden, president of marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday.

All of the efforts are being coordinated through Chinese sports marketing company Olle Sports and its vice president, Winsen Qian.

The relationship between Myrtle Beach and the People’s Republic of China began last year when Olle Sports used the World Am brand for its own qualifying events, then brought nine golfers and a few accompanying executives to last August’s tournament on approximately 60 Grand Strand courses.

The number of World Am qualifiers will increase from the 10 or so that were held in China last year, and Qian has talked about bringing a group as large as 50 to 100 players to the tournament this August. “They plan on expanding considerably from what they had last year,” Golden said. “[Qian] said everybody that came here last year loved Myrtle Beach. He feels there is a considerable opportunity for us in China.”

Though additional groups on golf vacations haven’t been booked, Golden said there have been enough discussions for him to believe it will happen. Pricing has been provided for groups between 10 and 40 golfers, and Golf Holiday is prepared to provide needed interpreters, transportation, etc.

“Those efforts are under way so we believe there will be groups coming over before August,” Golden said. “There was so much unknown with them heading to Myrtle Beach for the first time. I think they learned more about the area and we learned how to better cater to the Chinese golfer.

“There’s nothing they will need that we cannot provide given advance notice. It’s something that can be done and we can handle it.”

There have also been discussions about sending a small delegation from the Myrtle Beach golf industry to China for promotion and information, possibly during the expected kickoff of the World Am qualifiers in March.

Myrtle Beach and the World Am are being heavily promoted to the Chinese golfer through an Olle Sports’ website dedicated to the World Am containing stories, pictures and videos, and the Olle-published Chinese golf magazine Swing, which has included editorial and advertising for Myrtle Beach and the World Am.

Redding, whose golf school is at the Members Club at Grande Dunes, was the subject of one of those articles over two pages, and he wrote a three-page article on golf instruction that included photos.

Redding will be both hosting some Chinese players for instruction and traveling to China to run a pair of week-long golf schools this year, and has been discussing the logistics of the golf schools with Qian.

He believes he’ll head to China for two weeks in March and/or April, and Qian requested a proposal outlining the structure of the two prospective five-day schools, which Redding estimates would consist of about 10 golfers each.

Redding is planning on filling mornings with range instruction and afternoons with playing lessons on the course.

“It would depend a lot on what their skill level is,” Redding said. “But that’s going to happen for sure between March and April.”

The schools in Myrtle Beach will likely occur just before the World Am and include at least a dozen tournament participants. Redding intends to enlist the help of a couple other instructors, possibly two from Charleston and Wilmington, N.C., who have been shadowing him during instruction to learn his teaching style. Redding shadowed former Tiger Woods instructor Hank Haney earlier in his career.

Lessons have been a common request of prospective Chinese travelers. “It appears to us every group that comes over is interested in instruction,” Golden said. “Clearly instruction is very important to them, so it’s an opportunity we see for our instructors here.”

Some American instructors have already set up shop in China, including many at the Cindy Reid Golf Academy at Mission Hills Resort in Shenzhen.

Redding said he was first asked about traveling to China for six months. “I said, ‘I can’t come over for six months,’ ” Redding said. “I have a family and students here and have responsibility to the PGA [of America]. We’ll try two weeks at a time. If it goes well I anticipate we’ll probably be doing more throughout the year.”

Redding will have an interpreter on the range with him in China. He also plans to learn basic phrases from a Chinese language instructor in Myrtle Beach so he can give direct commands and feedback to his students.

“I think it will be very interesting,” Redding said. “It’s very much of a learning experience and I’m looking forward to seeing how that is going to work. It will be interesting to see how the interpreter relays the information I’m giving them.”

Holliday stock rising

Johnson Holliday of Galivants Ferry doesn’t have a lot of college options, but that could soon change if college coaches have been paying attention to his recent tournaments.

The Aynor High senior continued his impressive fall and winter with another strong performance Sunday and Monday in the fifth annual Carolinas-Georgia Junior Championship at Mount Vintage Plantation in North Augusta.

Holliday tied for fifth in the limited and elite field. Tournament organizers annually invite the top 20 junior boys and top 10 girls ages 14-18 from each of the three participating states of South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Holliday was the only player from the Grand Strand in the tournament.

He played his final 12 holes 1-under par and shot rounds of 72 and 74 for a 2-over-par 146 to finish six shots behind winner Trace Crow of Easley, who posted a pair of 70s. He was one of two S.C. players in the top 10, along with runner-up Richard Hubbard of Daniel Island, to help the Palmetto State take the state team competition.

Holliday tied for third at the George Holliday Memorial Junior at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club on Nov. 24, and tied for fourth in the Charles Tilghman Junior at the Surf Golf and Beach Club on Dec. 9.

“I’ve been playing pretty good,” Holliday said. “I think I’ve got some eyes turned my way. Hopefully I’ll find the school that’s a perfect match for me.”

Holliday finished ahead of several highly-touted players including Clemson commitments Carson Young of Pendleton and Austin Langdale of Townville, two-time reigning George Holliday champion Jonathan Hardee of Greer, reigning Tilghman Junior champ Austin Zoller of North Charleston, 2012 S.C. Junior winner Jeremy Grab of Daniel Island, and reigning U.S. Kids Teen World champion David Mackey of Bogart, Ga.

Holliday’s schedule for the next couple months will likely be limited to high school tournaments and matches.

“I’ve been hitting the ball good and I have a lot of confidence out there,” Holliday said. “I’m enjoying playing and enjoying my senior year, just knowing it’s the last of everything and I have to go out and finish strong.”

CGA honors players

Three previous winners and three first-timers have been named the 2012 Richard S. Tufts Players of the Year by the Carolinas Golf Association (CGA). The awards were created in 1997.

The six winners are: Scott Harvey of Greensboro, N.C. (Men), Dawn Woodard of Greer (Women), Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C. (Senior Men), Pat Brogden of Garner, N.C. (Senior Women), Keenan Huskey of Greenville (Junior Boys) and Kelli Murphy of Elgin (Junior Girls).

Harvey, 34, claimed his second consecutive Carolinas Men’s Player of the Year award. The property manager won the Carolinas and N.C. Mid-Am titles and had four second-place finishes in 2012.

Simson became the all-time CGA championship record holder in 2012 with his 25th title and earned his seventh consecutive Carolinas Senior Men’s Player of the Year award to go with three CGA men’s Tufts honors. He won the U.S. Senior Amateur for the second time in three years.

Woodard won three titles in the Carolinas and was the medalist at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur as the only player under par before losing in the match play round of 32. Brogden won her second annual Tufts senior women award, and South Carolina commitment Huskey and Auburn commitment Murphy are first-time winners.

Award winners will be honored during Carolinas Golf Night and the CGA Annual Meeting at The Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst, N.C. on Feb. 9.

To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, or Twitter page visit myrtlebeachonline.com

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